Eat Local Turkish Breakfast

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August 9, 2011 at 11:11 am

Rob Gardner

Eating local takes you far. I also mean far away places. For instance, this summer I keep on going to Turkey through local food. You know, some posit the opposite. More than a few people told me they resist eating local because they want instead to enjoy “ethnic” food, food in the styles of other places. This desire for ethnic food comes in two forms. First, they want to eat Chinese food or Thai food or whatever, with its attendant ingredients that don’t sell in farmer’s markets. Second, they want to follow the ethnic season. So, if Italians eat fava beans in the Spring, that’s when they want to eat fava beans. I surely allow some sympathies for the former. I understand the desire to honor cultural heritage and position oneself in age old traditions. A bit of dabbling in this area suits me no never mind. And foreign ingredients, I say ingredients-schmgredients. Don’t you know locavores follow the “Marco Polo” rules.  The Eat Local Police will not charge your door if you need sesame oil, ginger and three crab brand fish sauce for dinner.  You are excused.  Get your ethnic food.  Yet, you can get closer to the spirit of the food you want to cook when you use local foods.

For so many cuisines, the crux lies in the ingredients.  Most Greek restaurants in Chicagoland put horta on their menu, but does the cultivated chicory marketed as dandelion really hold to the spirit of wild greens that horta.  Want real horta, visit the markets [ed. or Maxwell St.!] for a wild green like purslane.  Take the Turkish breakfast.  This daily repast is all about the ingredients and hardly about cooking at all. If you skip the omelette or the baked cheese, there’s no cooking at all with your Turkish breakfast.  When you put forward a plate of cheeses, tomatoes and such, it better be excellent tomatoes, cheese and such.  Crappy tomatoes, especially those fake red “vine ripened” ones and a shrink-wrapped cuke hardly taste like Turkish food.  Only the quality of local items brings you the authentic tastes.

I’m not sure what got me on this Turkish breakfast kick this year, but once aware of such meal, I knew I could do it oh so well, with my stores of local foods.  In the early part of the summer, I splurged on Iron Creek indoor grown tomatoes.  Lately, it’s been a bargain.

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I mostly eat Turkish breakfast on Saturdays. I walk Molly, the Eat Local Dog, and my younger daughter to the Oak Park Farmer’s Market. Sophia and Molly hang while I shop a bit and check in on my wife, working the Tomato Mountain booth. There’s usually a donut in there somewhere. And coffee. See, I violate an essential part of the Turkish breakfast even as I aspire towards it. Breakfast in Turkey is called “kahvaltı”, from “kahve altı” meaning “under coffee” or “before coffee”. Turkish breakfast is, to them, dim sum, something to have with morning tea. Coffee comes later.  I’ve always had my coffee. Coffee never comes later for me.  I do the the rest of it right though.

To get yourself to Turkey, for breakfast (at least), mix and match any of the following local ingredients:

  • tomatoes
  • cucumbers
  • soft cheeses like Brunkow’s fresh mozzarella or Prairie Fruit Farms chevre; slightly different flavor profiles than the soft cheeses of Turkey but in the proper spirit of things I believe
  • hard cheeses like Sartori’s Bellavitano
  • cooked cheese – Brunkow’s bread cheese, again has a wholly different flavor profile than haloumi, but seems right
  • yogurt with good local honey
  • high quality jams like the stuff my wife sells for Tomato Mountain
  • olives – say Marco…Polo.
  • good bread found at your farmer’s market

An ambitious cook may also include cooked eggs, a bean dish, fried sausages, something potato-ish.  Saturday mornings I am anything but an ambitious cook.  I’m usually facing a mountain of dishes from our elaborate Friday night meals.  There was that long market walk already.  It’s all I can do to fry up the Brunkow cheese.  All I want is a chance to get away, and I can do that by eating local.  Eat local Turkish breakfasts.

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